Calgary’s first ever stadium obstacle course race occurred on August 27, 2016 with the inaugural X Warrior Challenge. The event took place at the Stampede Grandstand. During the Calgary Stampede, horses, bulls, and cowboys tear up this arena, but on August 27 the grounds were open to even more wild and ferocious beasts…X Warriors.
The X Warrior Challenge offered up two different races. Racers could choose from competing in either the standard X Warrior Challenge or the X Titan. The X Warrior Challenge is a 5 km course with 21 obstacles, and offers both Elite and Open Heats. The X Titan on the other hand is a 6.5 hour endurance race, where participants attempt to complete as many laps of the 5 km course as possible in the given time frame.
The course was extremely flat when compared to other obstacle course races. A few stair climbs were located at the beginning of the race but other than that, the course was as flat as a pancake. The flat course made for a very speedy and exciting race. Although flat, the course kept racers on their toes as they encountered obstacles roughly every 250 m. Having obstacles evenly distributed keeps competitors fully engaged throughout the race. Never did this course feel like a running event, it truly was an obstacle course race.
All finishers received an X Warrior medal upon completing their first lap. X Titan competitors were required to complete at least two laps to earn the X Titan medal. X Titans were further rewarded with pins and badges as they completed additional laps. The last reward for X Titan’s is the coveted X Colossus Badge, which was earned after completing 5 laps. Although the rewards stopped after 5 laps, X Titans could keep running for sheer bragging rights.
Course Map: The course map was provided to the racers a few days in advanced. I understand that obstacle course races want to leave some element of surprise to race day but I still like to have map. I don’t need all the obstacles listed or the distances marked on the map, I just like to have a general idea of where I’m going.
No Congestion: Congestion and bottle necking was simply not an issues on this course. The main reason for this is that within each heat racers were sent off in groups of 10 roughly 1-2 minutes apart. This tactic was a necessity as racers encountered narrow stadium stairs within the first 100 m of the race. Although a necessity the benefits carried on throughout the course as there was no congestion anywhere at any point in time. The only downside to starting in waves is that you don’t know where you are in reference to the standings. You may be first in your wave and think you can ease up, but really you’re in 12th.
Open Heat Rules: The X Warrior rules state that open heat competitors should complete the penalty for failing obstacles. In other events (Spartan Race) it is widely known that penalty burpees are often not completed. This frustrates other open heat racers because by not completing the burpees these racers are cheating. Even though there are no prizes in the open heat’s I understand people’s frustration because rules are rules. However by simply stating that open heat competitors should complete there penalties, removes this issue of cheating altogether. The optional penalty for failed obstacles, reminds us that everyone is out on the course with different goals in mind. Some people are out there to have fun with friends and families and having someone yell at them to do burpees or mountain climbers (the penalty for failure at X Warrior, is either 20 burpees or 20 mountain climbers depending on the obstacle), may ruin their day/experience. Whereas racers who aren’t Elite but still want to go hard and test themselves against the course are able to do so by taking the penalties.
Obstacles: The 5km course was packed full of 21 challenging and fun obstacles. My personal favorites were the Spider Stairs, Tip of the Spear, Wedge, Warped Wall, and the Axe Throw.
Spider Stairs: Bungee cords were strung across the stairs forcing racers, to crawl up the stairs. A very simple, unique, and fun obstacle
Tip of the Spear: Essentially a slanted traverse wall. A simple yet fun rendition of the traditional traverse wall obstacle.
Wedge: Two planks were slanted towards each other making a wedge. Competitors had to brace themselves against these planks with their hands and feet to manoeuvre across this obstacle. This obstacle kind of makes you feel like Spider-Man.
Warped Wall: A quarter pipe which runners had to sprint up and pull themselves up and over. If you read my Tough Mudder review, you know that I absolutely love this thing!
Axe Throw: Need I say more? You get to throw an axe! It’s awesome!
Free Spectators: This one speaks for itself. Free things are always good and I think spectators should always be free. They are attending to cheer on family members and friends out on the course, so making them pay is ridiculous. And who knows, one day they may be future participants.
Free Boot Camps: Not actually from the event but I need to mention this because I think it’s absolutely fantastic. Every Saturday from April 23 till the weekend before the race (August 20) X Warrior Challenge put on a free boot camp. I can think of no better way to entice people into the sport of OCR then giving them a taste of it for free! For some people getting off the couch and working out is hard enough without the added price tag of boot camps and memberships. I love the fact that X Warrior did this and hope there is more to come next year.
The X Warrior Challenge was a great experience. The course was fun, fast, and exciting. X Warrior provided a unique racing experience and it did not feel at all like a Spartan Race wannabe (or any other big name OCR event). The X Warrior Challenge was its own event with its own identity.
From picking up my race package, dropping off my bag and heading to the start line there were no hiccups along the way. The event was well managed, the course was well designed, and the obstacles were awesome.
Although a great experience overall there was a small issue with the course markings. A few racers did miss a turn and skipped ~0.5 km of the course and an obstacle. I spoke with a few of the racers who did head off course and they had just reasoning. The course markings changed at this particular section and there were no volunteers to tell them otherwise (…but had they looked at the course map maybe they would have known better). With this being the only issue throughout the day, I must say that X Warrior did a great job on their first race. Course markings and volunteer placement is easily overlooked during course design, and I believe this will be an easy fix in future races.
Despite a few racers heading off course, X Warrior put on a great event. I truly hope that the buzz and success of the X Warrior Challenge continues to grow and there are more races to come in the future.
Adam Kuhn lives in Calgary Alberta, where he works as a Geologist in corporate Calgary. Playing high level hockey and football in high school Adam has always loved competitive sports. Upon entering University, sports and exercise fell to the wayside as a life of partying ensued. Spartan Racing has gotten Adam off the couch (and booze) and has revitalized his life. A relatively new face in the OCR scene Adam’s competitive nature is back as he pushes his body to its limits as he competes in the Elite Heats, testing himself against the best of the best. Follow him on Instagram @adamkuhn20 and checkout his personal blog readysweatrun.com for more on his adventures.