In the heart of cowboy country, X Warrior Challenge welcomed obstacle racers into the Calgary Stampede grounds for the first stadium race of 2018. This was the third installment of the multi-event challenge that pits racers against the rodeo grounds and a horde of obstacles on a 5km course. Competitors were treated to a bright blue sky and a warm breeze which made for dry conditions and clean obstacles.
Race organizers experimented with a new form of waiver completion that was distributed to participants just under a week before event day. It involved a form of biometrics which acted as a digital signature, allowing participants to skip a good portion of morning registration. For those that opted out of this process, traditional paper waivers were available as well. Package pick up included advertising for future events as well as coupons for a motorcycle purchase, something not often seen in. In addition, racers were also given their race shirt which many used for their race kit. Check-in began an hour prior to the start of the competitive wave, so athletes were visible getting their warm-up routines in and around the stadium upon arrival. Titans began their final preparations for their quarter-day adventure, and the open athletes took in the venue as they prepared for their race.
X Warrior offered a number of divisions: competitive, open, youth race, the 6 hour Titan Challenge where racers attempted as many laps of the 5km course as possible, and the sandbag division. The sandbag division is a new spin to add to the difficulty of OCR where racers complete a lap or more of the course carrying a 40-pound sandbag for the duration, only putting it down for a selection of obstacles. There was truly a race format for every type of racer and there was a lot to try. Rather than spread it out over a two-day grind, X Warrior threw it all into one day which worked out rather smoothly given all the moving parts that needed to be monitored.
Titans were given access to an in-field building where they were able to store any food or gear needed when competitors finished a lap. Many Titans were grateful for this opportunity as it made it possible to complete up to 50km with no hydration pack (which is rare in a long distance OCR). Titans would have to endure a fast course that experienced a number of terrain changes.
Shooting off the starting line, the course began on the chuckwagon track and quickly diverted onto a service road that led to the main grandstand. The next chunk of the race is where the elevation came into play. All athletes worked their way up and down over 350 stairs per lap with obstacles along the way which was an effective way of spreading out the field.
Upon exiting the stadium everyone had exited to the stables where they would run along an obstacle dense flat concrete path where runners could really open up and make up some time from the stairs. Although the remainder of the course was flat, it was obstacle heavy which slowed down a number of runners throughout the day.
Many of the usual obstacles made an appearance: walls, bucket carry, tire flip, and even Dragon's Back. There were a couple of new obstacle designs (see later), but what made this race special was the variety of events people could participate in. In my experience, most race companies split their events over a weekend in one location or even over a season. It is rare to have four events or more running simultaneously. So even though there was no one aspect of the race that set it apart, it was a collection of everything that helped contribute to the success of the race.
OCR events are under increasing pressure to innovate the sport to help keep it fresh and to bring in new athletes. While most of the obstacles used for this event were standard for the sport, they did make an attempt to bring something new to the table. The course designers had brought in two new rope obstacles: Tarzan and Rope-a-Dope. The former was a large structure which held multiple lanes of 4 ropes which competitors used to swing from one end of the structure to the other. Rope-a-Dope closely resembled a traditional rope climb with the modification of forcing athletes to jump from a platform and catching the rope before climbing and ringing the bell. Both obstacles were made safe by installing large air-filled crash pads underneath areas where falls could occur. All in all, a fun and challenging way of putting a spin on an OCR staple.
While I was participating in the 6-hour Titan event, I did hear quite a bit about the post-race atmosphere. In addition to the usual beer garden, there were a number of things to entertain racers and audience alike. The youth races began in the afternoon as proud parents watched their children begin their OCR journeys, a number of vendors were on site, and much of the course was in view at any given point from the grandstand. Once the podiums were announced and everyone cleared the stadium, racers were given access to the official after party at a pub in downtown Calgary where everyone could share their crazy memories from the event just hours prior, freshly cleaned with all battle scars visible. There were door prizes given away, food was eaten, and participants had the chance to meet race director Darcy Chalifoux and provide their feedback and stories.
All in all, X warrior is a growing company which has to compete against well-established events such as Spartan, Tough Mudder, Mud Hero, and Rugged Maniac. However, they are also building themselves to be a unique offering in the OCR market that is starting to attract a large and diverse following in western Canada. The venue used for this event was terrific as it was refreshing not to spend 10 minutes hosing off in cold water after the race (although mud runs are always worth it). While there were no hills there were enough stairs to add a large amount of elevation for a short distance. Obstacles were well designed and strategically placed.
The only blemish on the day was some confusion which occurred with the biometric waiver and the multiple lines racers needed to enter to check in if they had used the traditional waiver method or missed the early registration the day prior. All in all, a very minor hiccup in a well-run event.
Star Rating: 4.5/5
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