Home / Diet & Fitness / Penner: Mud and mayhem part of the course for top Spartan racer – Updated

Penner: Mud and mayhem part of the course for top Spartan racer – Updated


Faye Stenning competing in a Spartan race in Seattle.

Calgary

The look on her face says it all. Call it the epitome of “extreme exertion,” with mud-and-blood makeup applied liberally for added effect.Indeed, 30 kilometres of mud holes, rope swings, spear throwing (the Spartans were good at that), greased walls, log lifting, tire flipping, fire jumping, climbing, crawling, and so on, takes a toll. But in the heat of the battle, elite Spartan racers must put it all on the line if they want a spot on the podium. Ask Calgarian Faye Stenning. She’s one of the top obstacle course racers in the world. And she’s stood on top of plenty of podiums. So many, in fact, she’s lost count.

Faye Stenning competing in a Spartan race in Tahoe.

Calgary

A true Spartan superstar, 28-year-old Faye Stenning is, pound for pound, one of the toughest athletes on the planet. And the videos of her training and beating obstacle courses into submission are phenomenal, especially if you like ferocious facial expressions. While 2017 was a fairly disappointing year for Stenning (in 2016 she was ranked No. 1 Spartan athlete in the world), she’s off to a flying start in 2018. And, thanks to some recent trips to the podium, she’s once again the top-ranked female competitor in Spartan’s elite U.S. Championship Series. Not bad for an Alberta kid who grew up running track at Western Canada High School. “The competition in Spartan races has become pretty insane,” says Stenning, who is in Calgary training before the summer race season hits full stride. Her next race (in early May) is in Bigfork, Mont., one of the shorter distances she’ll travel to compete this year. “Numerous world-class athletes from multiple disciplines are entering the races. To win a race, to finish on the podium, is getting extremely difficult. But I feel like I’m back in top form and I have some lofty goals for 2018. Last year was difficult and it was my first year competing full-time as a professional. I learned some valuable lessons.”

Faye Stenning competing in a Spartan race in Tahoe.

Calgary

Training incessantly, to the point of mental and physical burnout, was, perhaps, the most important factor that led to her disappointing 2017 season. “Last year, after giving up my day job, I felt like I had to spend every second of the day training. That was a mistake. I became exhausted and simply didn’t have enough to give on race days. I learned I have a breaking point and that my body has a limit to what it can do. Obviously, the races are intense and getting enough rest, especially from a mental standpoint, is key. In 2018, my focus is on quality, not quantity. I’m also scheduling more rest days.”With that new approach, choosing races is also a key factor for Stenning and, for that matter, every elite Spartan racer. The global leader in obstacle course racing, Spartan, which was founded in Vermont in 2010 by adventure racer Joe De Sena, runs over 120 races — in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and many other countries — with myriad race types, levels, series, age groups, championships and so on. 

Faye Stenning competing in a Spartan race.

GREGG SAMELSON /

Calgary

While none of the Spartan races are for the faint of heart (De Sena unabashedly states his goal is to rip 100 million people off the couch), many elite racers focus on the various national and regional championship series. Not surprisingly, given her contracts and sponsors (which include Yokohama Tire, Rehyband and Optimum Nutrition), Stenning’s focus will continue to be on the largest, most lucrative Spartan events in North America. That means the U.S. Championship Series, the gruelling Mountain Series, and the North American and World Championships. Stenning’s goal is to finish first in both the U.S. Championship Series and the U.S. Mountain Series and in the top three in the Spartan World Championship.Unfortunately, for Canadian Spartan junkies, this means Stenning will likely not compete in Canada this summer. (Last year she won all six of the Canadian events she entered). The elite athletes are drawn to the best competitions, the largest prize purses and maximum exposure for their sponsors. Simply put, if you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. “The prize money in the U.S. ranges from $500 to $20,000 for finishing first,” says Stenning. “This is why strategically picking your race schedule is key.”

Faye Stenning competing in a Spartan race.

GREGG SAMELSON /

Calgary

Of course, while Stenning and the rest of the elite Spartan athletes will be blazing the fastest trail possible through challenges that pepper the typical course, hundreds of wannabe warriors and couch potato converts will be also be participating in their own heats and races. “That’s the beauty of Spartan races,” says Stenning. “Everyone can participate. Even kids. It’s an awesome thing to be a part of.”For more information on Spartan races, visit http://www.spartanrace.ca. The Calgary Spartan event runs Aug. 11-12 at the Wildrose MX Park.   


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