Conquering The Stonehame Beast Race

Sam Jennings Top Fittness Gym Toronto

Setting Goals

At the start of this year I set a goal for myself – to train and compete at a level that would take me to the top of my game. As someone who needs tangible feedback and likes to see results, I had to determine what “success” would look like. For me, I decided that would be winning a Spartan race in the age group category, so I set out to make this happen.

The Plan

New to the sport, I started obstacle course racing a year ago. I had suffered a back injury and wasn’t able to do any bending at the hip – no tying my shoes, no getting in and out of a car, and definitely no heavy weight lifting. Determined to keep training, I discovered treadmill running. I wasn’t a cardio person or a runner, but I was able to move and exercise pain-free and keep myself from becoming depressed. It was at this time, a friend (Connor Power) ask if I wanted to join him for the X-Man Race. I jumped at the idea and signed up. Having an event on the calendar now gave me focus to my training – learn to run, run faster, and recover from my injury. I was beyond excited.

Shortly after signing up, the race was cancelled. Not ready to give up on the idea, we took a look around and found Spartan. My plan was to sign up for the Sprint, a 5KM race to start, but after hearing about the “trifecta” I just had to go all in. I signed up for the Sprint, Super, and Beast, and was ready to go. My first race was the Super and it was there that I fell in love with racing, and met the One Academy crew. I finished the race and insisted on knowing who these people were that swept the podiums and all had badass jerseys. The rest is history. I joined One Academy as a member a few short days after the race and this is when my training went next level.

Sam Jennings Top Fittness Gym Toronto

I started with Marathon on Fridays and realized my running had a long way to go. It pushed me to go harder and run longer than I had before. I added in Warrior on Wednesdays and really started seeing some changes. Even though I was always the slowest and the last to finish, I never once felt inferior. I was training beside elite level athletes and only ever felt a sense of inspiration – if they could crush these races, maybe I could train hard and do the same. I finished my trifecta and to my surprise I qualified to compete at OCRWC. I went, I raced, I did pretty okay, and I was happy. I decided the Sunday of that weekend in October 2017 that this is something I could really do well at. I laid out my goals for the next season in a journal and started going after them.

2018 was going to be the “Age Group” year – I was going to win a race for the Female 25-29 division. Having no concept of how to train for running, I knew I needed assistance. I was pretty familiar with the trainers at OA by now, being a regular and training 4-5 times a week in the classes, so I asked for help. It was Leo that I spoke with and I told him exactly what I wanted – I wanted to win. I didn’t want to improve, I didn’t want to just beat my old times, I wanted to win. From there I committed the next 9 months to a running program and classes and followed it with fierce dedication – not only to win my Age Group, but I also signed up for a 50KM Ultra! If I had to run 12km but I worked at 7AM, you bet I was up at 430AM to get those kilometers in. I trusted in the program and the progressive nature of the classes to push me. Along the way I learned new skills that would help me – climbed my first rope, learned to conquer a warped wall, successfully can-do pull ups, and improved my running by leaps and bounds.

The Race

The season progressed. I started hitting every goal I set for myself. I completed the Sprint and Super again from the previous year but completed them an hour faster. I placed 2nd, I placed 3rd, and then finally at the Quebec Spartan Beast in Stoneham – a mountainous terrain of crazy inclines and technical declines, 1700m elevation – I won. Every day of training up to that point, every class, every run, every one of Jesse’s pre-Everest speeches, pushed me one step closer to my goal. I fought hard and couldn’t be more happy with the way that race went.

Winning the Beast is something I will always remember. It was a true testament to what you can achieve when you set a goal, and have a support group to keep you accountable along the way. It was my drive, my passion, and my determination that got me that podium, but it was the people around me like my husband Mark and the community at One Academy that provided me the environment to make it happen.

What’s Next

My next challenge will be competing in my first Ultra as an Elite level racer. I’ll be at the starting line beside the people who originally inspired all this craziness and I couldn’t feel more at home. I look forward to providing the same support to new racers coming into the sport, and seeing just how physically, mentally, and emotionally strong we can all get!